Somayaki ( Ōbori Sōma-yaki) or Soma Ware: Pottery from Japan

Japan is known as one of the places that can date its pottery tradition to the Neolithic era (the last part of the Stone Age and before the Copper / Bronze Age).

In fact, the oldest known evidence of pottery making in the world can be found in Japan, as well as Korea and southern China.

I am continuing to add pottery objects to my Etsy store, and enjoying the research aspect of this process, especially delving into and learning about the different and distinct styles of my pottery finds.

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You can click on the photo to see the listing on my Etsy store

 

I recently listed Somayaki or “Soma Ware” double-wall pottery and found the story about these objects so interesting, especially that it was made in the Fukushima area of  Japan.

Below is what I learned and the information posted for my Soma Ware listings.


Soma-yaki  is a style of pottery that started over 300 years ago in Fukushima, Northern Japan, on the island of Honshu.

Among the characteristics that makes Somayaki pottery unique is its double wall, or multiple layer construction.

This clever design helps to insulate the pottery’s contents and keeps hot liquids hot, while the outer layer remains cool to touch.

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It is actually two pieces of pottery that are joined together — and you can see the inner layer through the heart cutouts on the photographs for this listing.

Another unique feature of this style of pottery are the galloping horse motif  — painted on one side of this teapot I listed…

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You can click on this photo to see the listing on my Etsy store

As well as inside, and at the bottom of the bowl I listed…

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According to the website ArtisticNippon.com (Yoshikawa Toki Co.) located in Choshi, Japan and specializing in Japanese pottery and porcelain,  the galloping horse motiff is known as “Hashirigoma”.

From the ArtisticNippon.com website…

The origin of the motif is the subject of much speculation, but there can be no doubt that it is related to Soma’s long history of horse handling ( the “ma” in Soma actually means “horse”).

….The galloping horse motif is painted on Somayaki following the tradition of the Kano School of Painting, one of the most prominent and respected schools of art in Japan.”

P1310772Along with the double-wall construction and the horse motif, Somayaki pottery is also distinct in its use of green colors and crackle glaze.

Again, from ArtisticNippon.com:

“Aohibi” is the name given to the distinctive blue crackled glaze seen on most Somayaki ware.

A combination of these three distinctive features combine to create warm, rustic pieces imbued with a sense of history and peculiar to the area in which they are produced.

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Tea pot lid with distinctive heart shaped cutouts (rim painted gold) aand scroll patterns

I also read that the scrolls seen on the pottery and the heart-shaped cut outs are to emulate wading birds, with the heart shape symbolizing the bird’s feet.


You may remember the March, 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Japan, and subsequent disaster at the Fukushima nuclear power facility.

Sadly, the village where Soma-yaki pottery is made had to be evacuated due to its proximity to the nuclear power plant.

I did not find any other information aside from what was on the Artistic Nippon website, and they noted that the kilns were damaged during the earthquake.

It seems that unless the families and craftspeople who created this unique pottery are able to re-establish elsewhere, these objects may not be made in the quantity before the Fukushima disaster.  A website that previously sold Soma Ware teapots in the U.S. lists the items as “out of stock”, and no information when they will be available.

Some of the Soma Ware pottery we see here in the U.S were brought back by Americans who served at military bases in Japan and Okinawa while in the Armed Forces.

It also appears that the San Francisco-based import company Otagiri imported these types of pottery from Japan to the U.S., as I’ve seen listings of this style pottery with Otagiri origins.

By the way, if you happen upon this post and have information on the pottery photographed for this post, I would appreciate it (please comment or send me an email at MyMarketTales@Gmailcom).

In particular, about the stamp on these pieces (the photo below is from the bottom, and the inner layer of the bowl I listed) and if the type of blue “Made in Japan” sticker gives a clue as to the date that the items were crafted.

P1310852aWas this post helpful to you?  I’d love to know 🙂 …


Related Links:

Quote from Asia Art on Modern Japan Ceramics


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Vintage stoneware soup cups, chili bowls

The Labor Day 2015 holiday was last week…officially known as the end of summer here in the U.S.

Before we know it, the weather will  cool down, and we begin to think about mugs of hot chocolate, home made soups cooked slow and with lots of love, as well as our favorite chili recipes.

Do you have a favorite cup to use in the winter, or do you use the same cup year-round?  I tend to switch to a thicker mug to keep my coffee warm in the cooler weather.

I already had a nice variety of cups in my collection, and now that I have an Etsy store, I have even more cups!

I originally listed the cups for the store in the ‘Dining / tabletop section’ but then decided I should create a new category called Wine / Drink and Barware.  

I think it is better to house the cups in this category (and recently added an English “transferware” cup from England —see previous post for more) and separate from all the plates.

Today, I added a 3rd set of a particular style of vintage stoneware cups in the new section.  These cups are wide and can also be used for soup or as chili bowls.

P1310068This new listing features a set with this fun roadrunner image.

Actually, it’s hard not to call roadrunner images as “FUN” because it seems most roadrunner art depict them doing what they do — running — which I find amusing.

Roadrunners are native to the Southwestern deserts of the U.S. and Mexico.  Aptly named, they are quite quick, can run as fast as 20 miles per hour, and are one of few animals that prey on rattlesnakes.  Very cool birds!

These cup / bowls are unmarked, but very similar to 1980s era and earlier Otagiri cups.

I love the look and feel of these vintage, wide rim cups.

Here are other similar sets listed for the shop:

P1240877 A pair with a bright and simple flower power motif  (listed here on Etsy)

P1240803And this gorgeous blue hued pair with peacocks / peafowls which remind me of  art nouveau  styles (no longer available on the shop).

And speaking of chili recipes, I saw a segment of the Cook’s Country cooking show on PBS this weekend that showcased a Colorado Green Chili recipe.

We usually make red chili with beef, but this recipe looked amazing, using pork, 2 lbs of Anaheim peppers and 2 jalapeno peppers.  They added the jalapeno to approximate the taste of Hatch or New Mexico chile peppers.

One of my favorite food to eat is Chile Relleno, which is often made with Anaheim peppers in place of the ‘poblano’ type peppers, and so already, I was intrigued and ended up watching the entire episode.

Colorado Chili Recipe Cooks Country
Colorado Green Chili photo via Cook’s Country website

It will definitely be one that I will try out during these cooler autumn months.  If you want to try it too, the recipe can be accessed through this link (you do have to register with the Cooks Country website).

What is your household’s favorite chili recipe?  The more traditional red chili or do you have favorite, more unusual chili recipe?

Does it matter to you what cup or bowl you use, or do you have special mugs for hot chocolate, or special soup and chili bowls?


Updated 12/1/2015 with photos of the Hull USA Pottery vintage chili bowls I recently listed on the shop.

P1370085 Love this bowl and plate set!

Click on the photos to see the listing on Etsy.  The plate / chili bowl set and the single chili cup listed separately.

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English “Transferware” Cups (and more)

My taste in cups — and most objects — tend to be simple designs using natural materials.  I am not into glitzy things, bling on my clothes or overly ornate objects.

My favorite cup at the moment is this blue-green little stoneware beauty, which came from a thrift store (I do not know the manufacturer, only that it is from Japan).

Current Favorite Cup marked from JapanNow that I have an Etsy store, it is easier to expand my appreciation for more ornate objects, since I am curating these for the store.

And although I am taking the item home, I know that my relationship with the object is short-lived… that is of course, if I am successful in selling the item.

I can love the object and know that eventually, it will go to someone who will love it even more than I do.  And if it is going to a home of an avid collector, then even better as it will have many companions!

Take this cup for instance…

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While this cup may not be something I would want to use everyday, looking at the intricate details of the image certainly gave me an appreciation for the artwork.

The image on this cup is applied via a process called  “transferware”.   Transferware also refers to a particular style of pottery and dinnerware ceramics.

The cup is made in England —- the place were transferware originated.

Cup Transferware Image Details

The beautiful image is first engraved by an artist on a copper plate.

Wet ink is then applied on the copper plate and pressed onto very thin, tissue paper.  The tissue paper is then transferred  to the blank cup (or plates and the myriad of tableware items) and then dried in a kiln to permanently set the image.

The story behind how transferware was started is nicely done on Nancy Roberts’ blog Nancy’s Daily Dish.   Here is an excerpt from Nancy’s article:

Although John Brooks, an Irish engraver is credited with having the first patent for the transferware printing technique in 1751, it was John Sadler and Guy Green of Liverpool, who independently discovered  the process, who are credited with perfecting the technique in 1756.

…Like his father, John was a kind man who showed compassion to the less fortunate. He would give extra prints he had to the children living nearby who would in turn go the local potteries and ask for the ‘wasters’ which were broken or un-saleable pots and pottery.

The children would affix the prints to the pottery and use them as decoration in doll houses and play.

When John saw the decoration he wondered, “What if pottery could receive an impression from a wet print, and then be fixed by firing afterwards”.

This thought sparked what would later come to be known as one of the greatest stories of mass production ever.

John, who had apparently developed a close relationship with Guy Green, probably like that of brothers, upon envisioning the idea of a piece of pottery with a print upon it, immediately and confidentially called on Guy Green to explore the possibilities of his new idea… (click here to read the complete article)

Here is my Etsy Store listing for this cup:

Etsy Listing Transferware
You can click on the image to see the listing at the Etsy website.

 

And actually… I had another transferware item — a plate — that I listed over a month ago (before I learned more about transferware).

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You can click on the image if you want to see the listing on my Etsy Shop

The castle image is what attracted me to this particular piece.

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You can click on the image if you want to see the listing on my Etsy Shop

The plate is by Johnson Brothers of England, in the Old Britain Castle Series .

This particular plate is the Blarney Castle 1792, with stamps on back and “Stoke-on-Trent England”.

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The city of Stoke-on-Trent is located in the county of Staffordshire, England — and Staffordshire is known as the area where the transferware technique was developed.

Interestingly, the famed English potter Josiah Wedgwood — founder of Wedgwood — was born in this area.

Because the Staffordshire area has an abundance of fine clay, a pottery industry has existed in this region since the 12th century.  Wow!

Though with so much manufacturing going to the Asia region these days, I do wonder if the pottery  industry will continue in this area, in this century.  Will we see less and less “Made in England” pottery?


So at least now, when I see this type of pottery and ceramic images, I will know a bit more about its history.

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Informative Links:

The Transferware Collectors Club is a forum for sharing information and interests between archaeologists, collectors, curators, dealers, historians, scholars,

Vernon Kilns and the early California “Big 5” Pottery Companies

If you sell items on Etsy or EBay, sooner or later, you will run into pottery objects from California — and especially one originating from what is known as the “Big 5” California potteries.

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Franciscan — by Gladding McBean Co. — footed cup and saucer in the “Jamoca” pattern

I’ve posted about Gladding McBean — one of the “Big 5’s” — as I owned and listed Franciscan  dinnerware items in the Jamoca pattern.

I recently listed a pair of hand-painted “Vernonware” / Vernon Kiln salad plates  manufactured between 1937 and 1958.

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You can click on the photo of the Vernonware handpainted “Organdie” pattern plates to view the Etsy listing.

 

Founded in 1931, Vernon Kilns was based in Vernon, California (about 5 miles south of downtown Los Angeles) and created many ceramic tableware patterns, as well as art ware, figurines and gift ware.

In 1940, they signed a contract with Walt Disney to produce film-related figurines based on characters from the films Dumbo, Fantasia and the Reluctant Dragon.

Especially because of their association with Walt Disney, it it safe to say you will run into not only tableware made by Vernon Kilns, but also collectible figurines (though I have not, as of yet… but then my pottery interest are more related to dining, cookware, garden pots and vases and not figurines).

As of September, 2015, if you type in “Vernonware” in the Etsy search box, you will get 18 pages of listings for over 700 objects!

Here is an image of the 1st page.  So many choices…

Vernonware on Etsy

It seems the hand-painted  “Organdie” pattern was popular and available in many shapes, so it would be easier to collect items in this pattern.

The Organdie pattern was designed by Gale Turnbull, who was hired by Vernon Kilns as their art director in 1935.

Vernon Kilns closed in 1958 due to increasing manufacturing and labor costs, as well as competition from foreign-made ceramic tableware and figurine manufacturers.

Besides Gladding, McBean & Co. and Vernon Kilns, the other “Big 5” were:

  • Pacific Clay Products
  • J.A. Bauer Potteries
  • and the Metlox Manufacturing Company — who, interestingly,  purchased Vernon Kilns and continued to make some of the Vernon Kiln items, until Metlox also closed down in the late 1980s.

Here is a Vernonware pitcher listed in the shop (in the “Sherwood” pattern – and San Clemente shape) that continued to be made by Metlox (manufactured between 1958 to 1965).

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Updated 2016 with this listing — You can click on the pitcher photo to see the listing in my Etsy Vintage shop.

Please comment about your own California pottery finds — I’d like to know more about about companies beyond the “Big 5” as well.


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Related links:

Thor Bjørklund – inventor of the cheese slicer

P1290489I like cheese — especially Danish Havarti and Spanish queso manchego, made from the milk of manchega sheep.  For snacking, cooking and melting, its hard to beat the  Extra Sharp Cheddar from the farmer-owned, Oregon-based Tilamook, which we usually have on hand.

I’ve sliced plenty of cheese over the years, but never gave much thought to the tool that I use to slice my cheese.  Well… at least not until I found the Bjørklund cheese slicers from Norway.

Before I listed these on my Etsy Store, the research — as it often does — revealed interesting information.

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It turns out that the inventor of the modern cheese slicer was a Norwegian man named Thor Bjørklund.  Yes, the same name that is on this cheese slicer.

Mr. Bjørklunde was a master carpenter and attended the Arts and Crafts School in Oslo, Norway.  He reportedly created the design after becoming frustrated with cutting into the cheese in his lunch pack.

Being a carpenter, he modeled his cheese slicer after a  plane – a tool used to shape and smooth out pieces of lumber.

“Ostehovel” Image via Wikipedia Commons

Bjorklund’s invention was patented in 1925.  The cheese slicer was a huge export product for Norway and  became a staple kitchen item in many Nordic households (and beyond!).

These days, cheese slicers are made by a number of manufacturers, but you can still purchase the original ones made by Bjørklund — because they continue to produce cheese slicers modeled after the one invented by Mr. Thor Bjorklund.

Ah yes… the things you learn when you have a blog AND an Etsy Vintage Shop!

Here is a link to the Etsy Listing for the Bjorklund Cheese Slicer (or click on the Etsy post image below).

Etsy Listing


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Update — I’ve also listed another cheese slicer on the store, this one designed by Swedish master jeweler and silversmith Vivianna Torun Bülow-Hübe for Dansk.

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You can click on the photo to see the listing for this Dansk cheese slicer on my Estsy shop.